Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Reduce Process Downtime With Device Protection

The list of possible events or conditions that can crash your process is immense. Fortunately, most of the possible occurrences are tagged with extremely low probabilities that allow us to sleep at night without worrying about impending disaster. However, we are engineers and industrial process operators. We are supposed to make sure everything keeps flowing smoothly. Here is a small part of your world that can be made more secure with some practical consideration.

Oil and Gas Industry Installation
Oil and Gas Industry Installation
Industrial processes require two very basic elements, measurement and control. The instruments used to measure process variables and the control devices employed to change them must be kept in operation, in many cases, all the time. You invest time to research available products, searching for the right materials of construction, signal output, accuracy, and a whole range of other attributes that will make your selection perfectly suited to the process requirements. This technical selection process is an essential part of the process design and implementation. What other aspects of your measurement and control hardware may play an important part in maintaining process uptime?

Give some consideration to the conditions or events that might take a particular instrument or control device out of action. With the application of imagination and good judgement, combined with some help from an experienced application engineer, you can develop additional items to incorporate into the design and installation of your process measurement and control elements. Here are some basics to get you started.

What is the security exposure for your device?

Not considered so much in the past, thinking about how someone without the best interests of your organization in mind might create havoc should be part of your general assessment of each installation. Fully understanding the access pathways, physical or otherwise, to your instruments and controls is necessary to thwart unauthorized tinkering or malicious mischief.

What are the real extremes of weather conditions occurring at the device’s physical location?

Data on the weather for every industrialized country, and some that are not so industrialized, is freely available. Check it out. Forget about the average range of conditions. Look for conditions that occur once in a hundred years or more. A small hardening of your installation might provide the needed capacity or strength to withstand the worst weather in a hundred years. Challenge your device vendors with these weather conditions. It might leave your process the only one standing after that freak storm.

What extreme conditions may be generated by the process that could lead to device damage or deterioration?

The normal process conditions are generally known. Consider, though, the instantaneous or short duration occurrences that, while associated with normal operation, may have an adverse impact on installed measurement and control devices. What happens when elements start or stop, open or close? Are there malfunctions of one device that could snowball into a string of failures of other devices?

process measurement instruments
Process Measurement Instruments
What are the physical contact hazards where the device is installed?

Measurement and control equipment needs to be provided with personnel access for maintenance, repair, even real-time observation in some cases. Along with human access comes the wide array of misbehaviors of which we are all capable. There is not one of us that has not tripped and fallen, dropped something, or bumped into something with undesirable results. Plan for contact with people and the things they may carry around your plant or installation. Locate sensitive gear away from major traffic areas and provide protection from unplanned contact with people, dollies, carts, tools, boxes and anything else that may pass through the area.

Are your devices and equipment protected from moisture?

Electronics are an integral part of modern industrial measurement and control equipment. Electronic devices will be damaged or destroyed by exposure to excessive levels of moisture. Moisture exists everywhere in our environment, primarily as vapor or liquid. The ability of moisture to find its way into unprotected enclosures is well known, and you should take precautions to prevent its entry and accumulation in your devices.
Protecting your installed process measurement and control equipment is an investment that pays dividends in process uptime and reduced repair effort and cost. It is challenging to think of all possible hazards, so consult an experienced engineering sales team and tap into their field experience to make your project as good as it can be.